Backyard Suburban Bruiser, Lost And Found

This Gwinnett County buck showed up on trail camera and then on a security camera in the yard.

Daryl Kirby | December 20, 2019

Tom Hunt has been a friend of GON for about as long as there’s been a GON. He’s appeared in the magazine quite a few times with big bucks, going back to the days when he was a key member of the TMI club in Talbot County. TMI stood for Trophy Management Inc., a tract that’s now part of the Chattahoochee Fall Line WMA.

So when my cell phone rang a few weeks ago and Tom’s name popped up from my contacts, the first thought was, “big buck.”

Then Tom started to tell a good news, bad news story, and I could tell he was torn about the bad news part of the story. It was about a deer he’d shot last month with his crossbow, but that he didn’t recover right away. I knew that Tom hunts now in Washington County, so that’s where my mind went, that is until Tom mentioned that a few days before he shot the buck he’d gotten it on a security camera in his Gwinnett County yard.  

“The story started last year around the end of October when I started getting trail-camera pictures in my yard,” Tom said. “The first picture that excited me was Oct. 31, 2018. Then I got another picture of an even larger buck on Nov. 5, 2018.

“I continued to get more pictures as the year progressed. I had to go buy another climbing stand and a ground blind because all my hunting stuff was at our property in Washington County. I hunted every morning and every evening that I could, but I never had any daytime sightings of either of the huge deer that I had trail camera pictures of. The deer stopped coming to the cameras after the rut wound down here in Gwinnett, but I knew that with the proper preparation I may have a chance at them in 2019.”

Fast forward to this season, and Tom was happy to learn that one of the big bucks had made it through the end of last season and the summer. He got a trail-camera picture of the smaller of the two big big bucks on Sept. 23.

“Again I started hunting every morning and evening that I could. I got lots of trail-cam pictures in the dark but had not seen the buck in the daytime until Oct. 24. That morning I was in my climber before daylight, and about 7:30 a.m. a doe came in with the buck not far behind. The buck stopped in a place where a large branch would not allow a shot. The doe then reversed her direction and went back the way she came from with the buck following. This was the first sighting I had in the daytime.

“The next time I saw the buck in the daytime was on Nov. 5. I was in the stand at around 7 a.m. when a small buck showed up and ended up bedding down in the yard behind my office and shop next to where I park my truck. I could see the small buck from where I was, and then I saw the big buck come running from the area my barn is at. He ran the small buck behind my office and into a flower bed by the office door. Then the big buck came back around where my truck was parked and stood in the driveway next to my truck. Then he left and was gone. I was able to retrieve video from my security system cameras. I was really excited because I knew that the deer was exceptional!”

Tom said, “The next time I saw the big buck was on Nov. 9. I was in my climber again and had borrowed some rattling antlers from one of my guys, Joe Johnson. It was 5:41 when I rattled for the last time because it was starting to get dark. I dropped the antlers to the ground and stood up to start down the tree when I looked back over my left shoulder and saw him coming in looking for a fight. The next few seconds were wild. He ended up giving me a shot at around 35 yards. I was using a Barnett Ghost 375 with Muzzy 3-Blade Trocar blades. The shot felt good, but when I went to look for my arrow, I was disappointed. I found the arrow, but it was clean. There was no indication of a hit. No blood, no hair, not anything. I could not believe that I had missed. My wife helped me look for blood since I am color blind and it is hard for me to follow a blood trail. We found no indication of a hit.

“I was sick that I had missed my chance at the big buck. For the next few weeks I was hoping to get more pictures of him, but it stopped. No more pictures! It haunted me to the point when on Dec. 9 I decided to go for a walk the way the deer had run. In about 10 minutes I had found the deer dead about 150 yards from where I shot him. I had not missed him at all.

“I learned a huge lesson that day. If you are color blind, you should always get help to determine if you made a good shot or not. If I followed up better, I could have recovered the deer when I shot him and would not have wasted the meat.”

After recovering the head, Tom took the rack to his taxidermist, Daniel Streetman at Wildlife Taxidermy. Daniel did a rough gross score and came up with 167 1/8 inches. He is a main-frame 5×6 11-pointer, and it also had a drop tine and broken-off sticker, plus some smaller stickers around the brows.

“I am glad that I recovered the deer, but sad that the meat went to waste. I will from this day on seek help if I am not sure of a hit.”


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